Why Study Political Science?
There are many definitions of political science. But whether a definition focuses on the analysis of governmental structures, or influences on voter choice, or the relationship between national governments, or the best form of government, at base, political science is about the systematic study of power. Whether power is exercised formally, as is the case between government and the individual, or informally, as is the case between individuals, it is the systematic study of power relationships that provides the subject matter for the discipline. Majors in political science obtain not only an understanding of the workings of government, but they also develop important skills in critical thinking and analysis. These skills make them ideal candidates for careers in law; in government at the state, national, and international levels; in business; in journalism; and in politics.
What careers do Political Science majors pursue?
Poli Sci majors learn quickly, work well in teams, and have basic understanding of the policy process and the operations of government. Poli Sci majors understand that for every endeavor, no matter how important, there is a mountain of ordinary grunt work that has to be done. Poli Sci majors can be counted on to do the foot-work, put in the face-time, and endure the slog necessary of everything of consequence.
Poli Sci majors go on to work in all levels of government. Local and state governments have a direct impact on the quality of life of all Americans. Courses on state and urban government, public policy, administrative law, and public administration are especially valuable. Quantitative and statistical skills developed in these courses and applied in the internships many of our students do provide a powerful combination.
Poli Sci majors go on to work in a wide range of International careers, in business, Foreign Service, and non-governmental organizations. Political Science offers a wide variety of courses in comparative politics, international relations and organizations, public policy, political development, and interest group politics. These courses in combination with economics, statistics, computer science, and international trade.
Poli Sci majors pursue careers in campaign management, political polling, national political committees, and consulting. They will have taken multiple courses in the American political system, comparative political parties, elections, public opinion, and voting behavior; as well as committing themselves to developing their writing and data analysis. There are over half a million campaigns in the United States annually, and while entry level jobs have long hours, low pay, and enormous demands, they are places where you can ‘cut your political teeth’. Local campaigns lead to statewide or national campaigns, and then perhaps to consulting and polling if that strikes your interest.
Poli Sci majors have also traditionally gone into law. Some lawyers are litigators while others are employed by corporations, government, and other organizations. Political Science track fits nicely for students seeking law degrees as official credentials to ‘practice law’ and those students who seek a law degree as an additional ‘tool’ to make positive impacts in their professional areas of interest. Some individuals with legal training work in other areas such as corporate or public management. The department offers a wide variety of political theory, constitutional law, and public policy courses that will help you explore the interaction between law, politics, and society.
Students in the College of Letters & Science can declare Political Science by completing a form on the department website.
Students in other schools and colleges interested in adding the Political Science major to their primary degree program need a declaration form signed by the Political Science advisor in order to obtain permission from their home school/college to add the additional major.
Students declared in the Political Science certificate may not be declared in the Political Science major at the same time. Students who do wish to declare this major must first cancel their declaration in the certificate.
University General Education Requirements
All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.
|General Education|| |
* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.
College of Letters & Science Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
Students pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum.
Bachelor of Arts degree requirements
|Mathematics||Complete the University General Education Requirements for Quantitative Reasoning A (QR-A) and Quantitative Reasoning B (QR-B) coursework.|
|Foreign Language|| |
|L&S Breadth|| |
|Liberal Arts and Science Coursework||Complete at least 108 credits.|
|Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work||Complete at least 60 credits at the intermediate or advanced level.|
|Major||Declare and complete at least one major.|
|Total Credits||Complete at least 120 credits.|
|UW-Madison Experience|| |
|Quality of Work|| |
Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major
Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements. They do not need to complete the L&S Degree Requirements above.
Requirements for the Major
30 credits are required in the following areas:
|Three courses and three areas required:||9-12|
|Introduction to International Relations|
|The U.S. & Latin America from the Colonial Era to the Present: A Critical Survey|
|The European Union: Politics and Political Economy|
|Theories of International Security|
|China in World Politics|
|Analysis of International Relations|
|International Political Economy|
|International Institutions and World Order|
|Principles of International Law|
|American Foreign Policy|
|Nuclear Weapons and World Politics|
|Gender and Politics in Comparative Perspective|
|Government and Natural Resources|
|African International Relations|
|The Politics of Development|
|Introduction to American Politics and Government|
|Introduction to American Politics|
|Introduction to State Government|
|Introduction to Political Psychology|
|Law, Politics and Society|
|Politics in Multi-Cultural Societies|
|Introduction to Public Policy|
|African and African-American Linkages: An Introduction|
|The Political Economy of Race in the United States|
|Elections and Voting Behavior|
|Civil Liberties in the United States|
|United States Congress|
|Criminal Law and Justice|
|Wisconsin in Washington Internship Course|
|State Government and Public Policy|
|The American Presidency|
|Citizenship, Democracy, and Difference|
|The American Constitution : Powers and Structures of Government|
|The American Constitution: Rights and Civil Liberties|
|The Supreme Court as a Political Institution|
|Community Power and Grass Roots Politics|
|The American Judicial System|
|The First Amendment|
|Honors Seminar on Race and Politics in the United States|
|Study Abroad Topics in Political Science: American Government|
|Politics of Government Regulation|
|Interest Group Politics|
|African American Political Theory|
|Wisconsin in Washington Advanced Public Policy Course|
|Introduction to Political Theory|
|Development of Ancient and Medieval Western Political Thought|
|The Development of Modern Western Political Thought|
|History of American Political Thought|
|Contemporary American Political Thought|
|Literature and Politics|
|Machiavelli and His World|
|Topics in Political Philosophy|
|Deception and Politics|
|Women and Politics|
|African American Political Theory|
|Radical Political Theory|
|Study Abroad Topics in Political Science: Political Theory|
|Introduction to Comparative Politics|
|Introduction to Comparative Politics (Honors)|
|Politics in Multi-Cultural Societies|
|Introduction to Southeast Asia: Vietnam to the Philippines|
|Russia: An Interdisciplinary Survey|
|Eastern Europe: An Interdisciplinary Survey|
|Introduction to East Asian Civilizations|
|Latin America: An Introduction|
|Africa: An Introductory Survey|
|African and African-American Linkages: An Introduction|
|Governments and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa|
|Politics of Southeast Asia|
|Social Movements and Revolutions in Latin America|
|Indian Politics in Comparative Perspective|
|Politics of East and Southeast Asia|
|Political Economy of Development|
|Democracy (and Its Uncertain Future)|
|The Civil-Military Paradox in U.S. Politics and Society|
|Israeli Politics and Society|
|Labor in the Americas: US & Mexico in Comparative & Historical Perspective|
|Islam and Politics|
|The Challenge of Democratization|
|Latino History and Politics|
|Social Mobilization in Latin America|
|Comparative Legal Institutions|
|Religion and Politics|
|The Politics of Human Rights|
|Politics of Gender and Women's Rights in the Middle East|
|Political Inequality: Measures, Causes, Effects and Remedies|
|Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict|
|Comparative Political Culture|
|The Comparative Study of Genocide|
|Socialism and Transitions to the Market|
|Electoral Systems and Representation|
|Politics and Policies in the European Union|
|Comparative Politics of Sport|
|Study Abroad Topics in Political Science: Comparative Politics|
|Complete one course from:||3-4|
|Research Methods in Political Science|
|Understanding Political Numbers|
|Political Choice and Strategy|
|Analysis of International Relations|
|Introduction to Survey Research|
Additional POLI SCI courses to attain 30 credits in the major.2
Residence and Quality of Work
- 2.000 GPA in all POLI SCI courses and courses that count toward the major
- 2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level credits in the major, taken in residence3
- 15 credits in POLI SCI, taken on campus
Honors in the Major
To declare Honors in the Major, students must have at least one POLI SCI course for Honors, at least a 3.300 University GPA, and meet with the major advisor to discuss the requirements.
To earn Honors in the Major, students must satisfy the requirements for the major (above) and these additional requirements:
- Earn a 3.300 or higher University GPA
- Earn 3.500 GPA or higher in all POLI SCI courses
- Complete at least 15 credits in POLI SCI for Honors to include:4
|Complete one of these Thesis sequences:||6|
| Senior Honors Thesis|
and Senior Honors Thesis
| Senior Honors Thesis Seminar|
and Senior Honors Thesis Seminar
|Additional POLI SCI courses taken for Honors 4||9|
Courses may only meet one Distribution area. A course may meet both a Distribution and the Research Methods requirement, but will only be applied once toward the 30 credits required in the major.
No more than 6 total credits of Directed Study (POLI SCI 199, POLI SCI 698, POLI SCI 699) and Internship (POLI SCI 315) may count in the major.
POLI SCI courses numbered 300 and higher count as upper-level in the major.
A grade of B or higher is required to earn Honors credit.
University Degree Requirements
|Total Degree||To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.|
|Residency||Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.|
|Quality of Work||Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.|
- Develop an understanding of and appreciation for the methods and approaches of diverse subfields in Political Science-‐American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory-‐and their relevance to important theoretical and pragmatic questions.
- Analyze different forms and practices of governance both democratic and non‐democratic.
- Argue effectively and defend propositions with intellectual integrity, while considering a range of alternative points of view and evidence.
- Analyze relations among individuals, civil society, political institutions, and states.
- Analyze the motivations and consequences of political decision‐making and activities.
Sample Four-Year Plan
This Sample Four-Year Plan is a tool to assist students and their advisor(s). Students should use it—along with their DARS report, the Degree Planner, and Course Search & Enroll tools—to make their own four-year plan based on their placement scores, credit for transferred courses and approved examinations, and individual interests. As students become involved in athletics, honors, research, student organizations, study abroad, volunteer experiences, and/or work, they might adjust the order of their courses to accommodate these experiences. Students will likely revise their own four-year plan several times during college.
|POLI SCI 104, 120, 140, or 160||3-4||POLI SCI 104, 120, 140, or 160 (complete two)||3-4|
|Communications A||3||Literature Breadth||3|
|Quantitative Reasoning A||3||Foreign Language (if needed)||4|
|Foreign Language (if needed)||4|
|Declare the major||POLI SCI elective||3|
|POLI SCI/CHICLA 231, 297, or 355 (satisfes Ethnic Studies requirement)||3-4;4||Communications B||4|
|POLI SCI 270, 274, 348, or 374 (satisfies Quantitative Reasoning B requirement)||3-4||Physical Science Breadth||3|
|Biological Science Breadth||3||Literature Breadth||3|
|I/A COMP SCI, MATH or STAT (if B.S.)||3||I/A COMP SCI, MATH, or STAT (if B.S.)||3|
|POLI SCI course 300 and above||4||POLI SCI course 300 and above||3|
|POLI SCI 202 (required for WIW participants)||1||Humanities Breadth||3|
|Humanities Breadth||3||Science Breadth||3|
|Elective||3||Apply for Senior Thesis (optional)1|
|POLI SCI course 300 and above||4||POLI SCI course 300 and above||6|
|POLI SCI 681, 683, or 691 (optional)1||3-4||POLI SCI 682, 684, or 692 (optional)1||3-4|
|Total Credits 119-120|
Students wishing to write a senior thesis (with or without Honors) should apply in the spring of their third year.
Sample Three-Year Plan
This Sample Three-Year Plan is a tool to assist students and their advisor(s). Students should use it —along with their DARS report, the Degree Planner, and Course Search & Enroll tools — to make their own three-year plan based on their placement scores, credit for transferred courses and approved examinations, and individual interests.
Three-year plans may vary considerably from student to student, depending on their individual preparation and circumstances. Students interested in graduating in three years should meet with an advisor as early as possible to discuss feasibility, appropriate course sequencing, post-graduation plans (careers, graduate school, etc.), and opportunities they might forgo in pursuit of a three-year graduation plan.
Students planning to graduate within three years with a Political Science major should enter the University with a minimum of 18 advanced standing credits, and have satisfied the following requirements with course credit or via placement examination:
- Communication Part A
- Quantitative Reasoning Part A
- 18 credits of any elective coursework
- 3-4 units of foreign language
Students missing one or more of these requirements upon entering the University should talk to their advisor about completing coursework over Summer terms to stay on track for a three year timeline.
|POLI SCI 104, 120, 140, or 160||4||Declare the Major|
|POLI SCI 104, 120, 140, or 160||4||POLI SCI 104, 120, 140, or 160||4|
|Biological Science Breadth||3||POLI SCI Elective||3|
|Literature Breadth||3||Communication B||4|
|Intermediate or Advanced COMP SCI, MATH, or STAT (if B.S.) or Elective (if B.A.)||3||Literature Breadth||3|
|Physical Science Breadth||3|
|POLI SCI/CHICLA 231, 297, or 355 (satisfies Ethnic Studies)||3-4||POLI SCI course 300 and above||4|
|POLI SCI 270, 274, or 348 (satisfies Quantitative Reasoning B)||4||POLI SCI course 300 and above||3|
|Humanities Breadth||3||Humanities Breadth||3|
|Science Breadth||3||Intermediate or Advanced COMP SCI, MATH, or STAT (if B.S.) or Elective (Intermediate or Advanced level) (if B.A.)||3|
|Elective||3||Elective (Intermediate or Advanced level)||3|
|Apply for Senior Thesis (optional)1|
|POLI SCI course 300 and above||4||POLI SCI course 300 and above||4|
|POLI SCI 681, 683, or 6911||4||POLI SCI course 300 and above||3|
|Science Breadth||3||POLI SCI 682, 684, or 6921||4|
|Electives (Intermediate or Advanced level)||6||Electives (Intermediate or Advanced level)||6|
|Total Credits 101-102|
Students wishing to write a senior thesis (with or without Honors) should apply in the spring of their second year.
The Department of Political Science has academic advisors who are available to meet with you to offer guidance on:
- Course selection
- Program planning
- Internship opportunities
- Study abroad programs
- Scholarship opportunities
- Student research interests
- Transfer and study abroad credits
Information about scheduling appointments and the current walk-in schedule can be found here. Please note that no advising appointments are scheduled via email.
Political science majors who wish to enroll in the following course(s) must obtain prior consent/authorization:
- Directed Study (note that after the sixth week of class students adding a Directed Study must obtain permission from the department chair)
- Proseminars (varies by specific course; check footnotes in the class schedule)
- Specific Topic
- Other advanced-level coursework with consent of the instructor in lieu of other required courses
Information and course descriptions are posted on the department website prior to each enrollment period. POLI SCI 315 Legislative Internship is available by application only. Specific deadlines will be announced each semester. Students with a classification making them ineligible for certain courses due to retroactive or AP credits may see the instructor for possible permission to enroll on a space available basis. Students who wish to enroll in a course that is closed may use the online wait list available through the Student Center in MyUW. The number of credits for variable credit courses is determined by course format and contact periods for a specific semester as noted in the class schedule. For graduate programs, see the Graduate section of this Guide.
L&S career resources
Every L&S major opens a world of possibilities. SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students turn the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and other coursework into fulfilling lives after graduation, whether that means jobs, public service, graduate school or other career pursuits.
In addition to providing basic support like resume reviews and interview practice, SuccessWorks offers ways to explore interests and build career skills from their very first semester/term at UW all the way through graduation and beyond.
Students can explore careers in one-on-one advising, try out different career paths, complete internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and connect with supportive alumni and even employers in the fields that inspire them.
- Set up a career advising appointment
- Enroll in a Career Course - a great idea for first- and second-year students:
- INTER-LS 210 L&S Career Development: Taking Initiative (1 credit)
- INTER-LS 215 Communicating About Careers (3 credits, fulfills Comm B General Education Requirement)
- Learn about internships and internship funding
- Activate your Handshake account to apply for jobs and internships from 200,000+ employers recruiting UW-Madison students
- Learn about the impact SuccessWorks has on students' lives
Please see the Faculty and Administration and Staff sections of the Political Science website.